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John Adams Parents Co-Chair Differently Abled Children's Committee

After years of speaking to kindergarten through fifth-grade general education classrooms during October for Disability Awareness Month and April for Autism Awareness and Acceptance Month, Mildred Rivera and Yolie Carrasco are co-chairing John Adams Elementary School's Differently Abled Children's Committee, created by the school's PTA.

For the past four years, the mothers have visited classrooms to speak openly and honestly about their children's autism. In October, they show students posters of children with various disabilities and explain that some disabilities are visible, while others, like autism, can't be seen. They read age-appropriate books such as "It's Okay to be Different" by Todd Parr, "Since We're Friends" by Celeste Shally and David Harrington and "I'm Special, I'm Me" by Ann Meek and Sarah Massini. The students receive hand-outs to take home to discuss with their parents.

Ms. Rivera and Ms. Carrasco have been lucky enough to recruit as guest speakers other John Adams parents with children with various disabilities, as well as parents of children who attend other Alexandria schools. They've also partnered up with the National Federation of the Blind and have hosted numerous visually impaired community guest speakers the past two years.

The women tie in their talks with the school's six pillars of character - Respect, Caring, Citizenship, Responsibility, Fairness and Trustworthiness - and with October being National Bullying Prevention Month. They encourage students, with or without disabilities, to treat others the way you want to be treated.

This year, something special happened that both Ms. Rivera and Ms. Carrasco would love someday for their children to do: Advocate for themselves! A courageous fourth-grader stood up and announced to everyone that he has a disability of diabetes. He then shared with his peers what he goes through on a daily basis.